NFL Draft: Lineman goes from homeless to Ravens
By Chris Talbott
Michael Oher can’t wait.
A journey that began on the streets of Memphis, Tenn., ended Saturday in New York when the All-American left tackle from Mississippi was selected by the Ravens with the No. 23 pick in the first round of the NFL draft.
Oher’s drawing a little more attention than your average hot prospect. His story of homelessness and loss has been chronicled in Michael’s Lewis best-selling book “The Blind Side” and will soon be the subject of a movie. The book brought him fame even before he became a star at Ole Miss. At 6-foot-5, 309 pounds, Oher’s size and athleticism had scouts and recruiters pegging him as a potential first-round draft pick almost as soon as he stepped on the field.
Turns out they were right. A multimillion dollar contract awaits Oher. The fact that he was the last player left in the green room at Radio City Music Hall, the other eight prospects backstage having been taken by the 17th selection, didn’t bother him.
“(The wait) could have been shorter, but it doesn’t matter. I knew I was going to be drafted. Don’t feel sorry for me,” Oher said.
The draft has long been pitched as the end of Oher’s journey. The stories in books and movies have to have an ending, after all. But Oher sees it as just another step in the life he’s made for himself since being adopted as a teenager by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy.
“It’s been a long, tough road,” he said. “A lot of hard work and dedication. I set my goals extremely high and I made it.”
The purple Ravens cap was even an OK match for his dark blue, pinstriped suit.
His first appearance at the Ravens’ facilities w as Sunday.
“I can’t wait to get started,” he said.
Oher and his family relaxed backstage before the draft started, knowing that even though he was hoping to be the first tackle taken it might be a while before he was picked.
His mother, Leigh Anne, kidded, “We’ll be playing hearts back here.”
When tackle Jason Smith of Baylor was picked by St. Louis No. 2, Oher’s goal was gone. Andre Smith from Alabama (No. 6 to Cincinnati) and Eugene Monroe of Virginia (No. 8 to Jacksonville) also went ahead of Oher, but that wasn’t a shock.
“In his world, now he’s got something to prove,” said Oher’s father, Sean Tuohy.
Oher seemed a bit anxious, certainly not up for chatting after Monroe went to the Jaguars. Some potential landing spots were coming up in the next few picks.
But Green Bay, San Francisco and Buffalo at No. 11 all passed on him, even though they could have used a tackle.
At that point it figured to be a while before Oher got the call. There wasn’t much conversation at his table. His dad cracked a few jokes. His agent, Jimmy Sexton, worked his phone a bit. Oher mostly just sat, occasionally glancing over his shoulder at the wide screen TV to see what was happening on ESPN.
At 6 p.m., quarterback Josh Freeman was taken No. 17 by Tampa Bay and that left Oher as the only player in the green room without an NFL home.
A few minutes later, Jason Smith came over to give Oher a handshake and a hug, to wish him luck.
Twenty-five minutes later, ESPN’s cameras paid a quick visit.
Five minutes later, a call. The call. Baltimore traded up to take him.
Smiles broke out all around the table, Oher stood up and reached across the table to give his dad a double fist pump.
Next it was time to get a handshake and a jersey from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Oher had waited about 21/2 hours backstage, but for as far as he had come, it really didn’t feel all that long.
“It was about an hour, wasn’t it?” he asked reporters.
The Tuohys took Oher into their home when he was a teenager in Memphis with nowhere to call home and eventually adopted him.
The Tuohys gave him a chance to get through high school and qualify for college, and Oher took full advantage of the opportunity.
“All the hard work they’ve put in has paid off,” Oher said. “I’m just glad I was able to give back by making it to the NFL.”
Now that he’s there?
“I want to just keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “Staying humble. Working hard.”